DeMaurice Smith accuses the owners of “criminal game manipulation” of refusing to enter into guaranteed contracts
It has been visible since the ink has dried Deshaun WatsonFive-year contract, fully secured and desired by Lamar Jackson. But for one errant report from several weeks ago that Lamar never asked for such a deal, all that was said and done privately and publicly indicated that Lamar wanted the same structure from the Ravens that DeShawn received from the Browns.
The latest indisputable visual evidence to support that conclusion comes from a powerful and impassioned article published this week by NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. In it, Smith targets owners to use fully guaranteed contracts as the latest device to exercise control over a player’s workforce.
“The NFL Draft and franchise tag system exist because owners have colluded in the past to hold back and restrict markets,” Smith writes. “This time, they are criminally playing the same game.”
Smith’s argument stems from the fact that Lamar Jackson is currently available to discuss, negotiate, and ultimately execute a fully guaranteed offer sheet. However, neither team showed any interest in even talking to him.
“We are all staring at the same answer to the obvious questions,” Smith wrote. “Why did you [Kirk] Cousins and [Deshaun] Watson got fully guaranteed contracts while the others didn’t? Or to be more specific, why would you have Baltimore Crows And other bands publicly (at least at first) made such a point to say they wouldn’t replace Lamar Jackson with a guaranteed contract just like Cousins or Watson? Let’s be clear, in my nearly 15-year career as a CEO, I’ve never seen teams that were so quick to publicly announce that they weren’t interested in playing a player midfielder in his prime, who would also have an injury guarantee, regardless of his contract.
It’s still astonishing, to say the least, that so many teams came out as uninterested in Lamar Jackson in the hours after the Ravens officially applied for the franchise’s non-exclusive label. Even if it was a product of the reporters being pushy and aggressive, the “NOPE” parade created a distinct impression of the format—especially when the simplest, smartest answer from the teams was, “We’re keeping all options open.”
As said earlier in PFT Live and other broadcasts and likely written here (it was a week long; I can’t remember for sure), the seeds of collusion were sown a year ago, with a league-wide reaction to Watson’s contract. This time, teams know not to flinch too close to a fully guaranteed flame. They would never have to say no to a guaranteed contract outright if they never involved Lamar in discussions about what he wanted.
Smith believes the league is taking a stronger stance on Lamar Jackson in order to block other quarterbacks who will get new deals soon (trulyAnd Joe BurrowAnd Justin HerbertAnd Jalen Hurts) from obtaining fully guaranteed contracts as well.
“The NFL wants to send a message to all of the aforementioned superstars that they won’t get a fully guaranteed contract, simply because other first-ballot Hall of Famers didn’t get one — and if they can help it — because Jackson didn’t get one,” wrote Smith. “The message to the non-quarterback agent market is equally harsh: You don’t stand a chance of getting that kind of contract.”
Smith believes the broader point is about power.
Smith wrote: “The message is clear from the league, we will control you. Unions and players have been fighting this fight for years, and it will no doubt continue.”
It will continue as long as the players allow it to continue. As long as they keep showing up for volunteer exercises. They have always continued to give the NFL and its teams free publicity and promotion on their personal platforms.
As long as the players won’t take a collective stand and push back against those who control the sport, eventually in the form of enduring a shutout or taking a strike long enough to miss regular season games.
DeMaurice Smith accuses the owners of “criminal game manipulation” of refusing to enter into guaranteed contracts appeared in the original Professional Football Talk